Fertilizing Naturally and Organically with Compost
7 of 9 in Series: The Essentials of Greening Your Lawn and Garden
Homegrown fruits and vegetables grow best in fertile soil. It’s important, though, to keep the fertilizers natural in order to avoid introducing potentially harmful chemicals into the environment. Compost is one of the best, most eco-friendly fertilizers there is — and if you make it yourself, it’s even free!
If your soil is a bit low on nutrients, you can add them quickly by using blood and bone meal (which is crushed or ground blood and bone); rock potash, compost, or liquid fertilizer from nature; seaweed or fish emulsion; or a wormery. Your local garden center or nursery can advise you about your soil type and how to enrich it.
A more long-term and natural way to fertilize your garden is with compust. Compost is decayed organic material that you use as a fertilizer for your garden soil and growing plants. It’s made from anything that can rot naturally and break down with the help of the microscopic organisms that live in it. Composting materials include leaves, grass cuttings, sheets of newspaper, wood chips, fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and straw-based manure. If you pile your organic material for composting into a heap in the garden or put it into a composting bin (which you can get from a garden center), it eventually decays and becomes brown and crumbly. When you dig it into your garden soil, it adds nutrients and makes the soil richer and easier to work with.
If you don’t have enough of your own compost to start, you can buy compost, preferably the organic variety if you’re growing organic fruits and vegetables. Whether homemade or store-bought, compost puts back into the soil some of the nutrients that plants take out. It helps your soil do a better job for the growing plants by:
Allowing the soil to hold moisture (which also means that you can do less watering)
Stopping nutrients leaching out of the soil, which means plants get more of the nutrients they need
Keeping the soil healthy and reducing the likelihood of soil-borne disease
When fertilizing your garden, resist the temptation to use any materials based on peat. Peat can’t be replanted and regrown quickly, so it’s not considered sustainable. Ask your garden center for green alternatives or make your own compost.